1968: On the road to Rishikesh
John Lennon and George Harrison, plus their wives Cynthia and Pattie, arrived in Delhi on 16 February 1968, and took the 150-mile journey by taxi to Rishikesh.
Our arrival at Delhi went very much unheralded. We were bundled unmolested and travel-weary into three battered, ancient Indian taxis without all the usual fuss and frantic rush. It was wonderfully refreshing and stress free.
Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr, with Jane Asher and Maureen Starkey, arrived four days later.
John and George were going to Rishikesh with the idea that this might be some huge spiritual lift-off and they might never come back if Maharishi told them some really amazing thing. Well, being a little bit pragmatic, I thought in my own mind, I’ll give it a month, then if I really really like it, I’ll come back and organise to go out there for good, but I won’t go on this ‘I may never come back’ thing, I won’t burn my bridges. That’s very me, to not want to do that. I just see it as being practical, and I think it is.
Many Years From Now, Barry Miles
The Maharishi’s Academy of Transcendental Meditation in Rishikesh was situated in a guarded compound in the foothills of the Himalayas, 150 feet above the River Ganges, and was surrounded by mountainous jungles on the other three sides. The compound was reached by a suspension bridge which featured a sign declaring ‘No camels or elephants’, though a ferryboat was the common way of crossing the river.
Although The Beatles’ presence was much publicised by the world’s media, they were part of a much bigger group of fellow meditation students.
There were probably about sixty of us at the ashram, an interesting collection of people from across the world – Sweden, Britain, America, Germany, Denmark – and everyone was so nice. Despite that, we felt cut off from the rest of the world so it was always exciting when letters came in the post – my mother wrote regularly with news of home – or when others joined us. One of the newcomers was Donovan, with his manager, ‘Gipsy Dave’. We had known Donovan for some years. He and the Beatles had recorded together, and he’d contributed to the Yellow Submarine album [sic]. He had fallen in love with Jenny [Boyd] – for whom he wrote Jennifer Juniper. Mike Love, lead singer of the Beach Boys, also turned up, as did the actress Mia Farrow, with her brother Johnny and sister Prudence.
A handful of photo opportunities were held for reporters eager to document The Beatles’ stay, but for the most part they were allowed to remain beyond the compound’s wire fence away from outsiders.
Every so often a tailor would appear and we would get him to make clothes for us. We all wore pyjama trousers and big baggy shirts, and the boys grew beards. It was baking hot during the day so you had to wear loose, flowing Indian clothes. After four in the afternoon it could get quite cold, and when it rained there was no hot water. One evening Maharishi organised boats to take everyone on a trip down the river while two holy men chanted. Then George and Donovan started to sing, and we all joined in with a mixture of English and German songs. It was so beautiful, with mountains on three sides of us. In the setting sun the one to the west turned a deep, deep pink.
What I would have given to be in India at the time……
I wish I was there too.
Yoko? Not really. They meditated days and weeks together in India. Then returned to England and went their 4 separate ways. Twas India that broke up the beast. They’ve all said the White Album was brutal. Ringo & George walked out. John shrugged and tried to get Clapton. We’ll never know what happened from the time they arrived in India and returned to England. But it sure wasn’t Bliss.
Amazingly, they produced a brilliant collection of pretty much solo songs. For that I’m grateful. As Paul said in Antholgy, Sod off, it’s The White Album.